Trump's Muslim Ban Has Shown Us That It's Our Duty To Teach Kids Compassion
“We cannot let the world be defined by those who wish to make it smaller.”
These simple but powerful words by author Jomny Sun have become my battle cry in a world where hatred seems to be falling from the sky like acid rain; stinging our skin and burning our eyes. It’s everywhere we look. Families forced apart, those fleeing horror denied access to safety, or to their own homes, simply because of their religion or nationality, vitriol spitting out of cold mouths.
And fear. So much fear. Misplaced fear from those who perceive peaceful, decent people to be a threat. Real fear from those who find themselves villainized merely for being wrongly associated with an extremist regime. Fear from all sides that our world and our way of life is coming apart at the seams.
This week, we saw the Muslim ban enacted, which bars members of certain countries access to the United States, despite their legal right to be there. We watched in horror as people were stranded at airports, separated from their families, kept from their lives. We saw a five-year-old left to fend for himself while members of the US government stated that children can be threats too. We were left reeling by a vicious attack on a Quebec City mosque. An act of terror committed by a Canadian citizen. Real terrorism in response to imagined threats. Facts ignored in favour of misplaced fear.
My sister is seeing the reach of this hatred in her middle school class in Ontario. Many of her students are Muslim. They are scared and they are feeling unwelcome and unloved in their own home. They are very aware that there are people who wish them harm for just being who they are. A Muslim mother in one of my parenting communities learned of the attack in Quebec City as her husband and sons were leaving their local mosque. It sent shivers down her spine to realize how vulnerable her family now is.
This is not okay.
It is not time to speak compassionate words, it is time to yell them. Speak to your Muslim neighbours, reach out on social media, contact local mosques and Islamic centres, tell them you are glad to have them in your community. Your message will be heard. “Please reach out to your Muslim neighbour. Give them a hug. Please,” pleaded a Muslim mom in my parenting group. My sister suggests sending postcards or commenting on the Facebook pages of Islamic centres. Do not sit silently at home lamenting how awful this is, reach out and let your voice be heard by those who need it most. They need to know they are welcome and they are loved.
It is time to get angry and let those who wish to spread hate know that we will not allow it. The one and only good thing that has come of this is seeing the wave of people coming out to shout, “This is wrong.” A mirror is being held up, and we are being forced to face who we really are. Some are showing ugliness, but millions are finding out that their true colours are fluorescent and brilliant. Challenge ignorance. Do not shake your head, use your voice. When you hear misinformation being used to support bigotry, call it out. Learn the real facts and spread them like wildfire.
Talk to your children. Many of them are frightened. Many of them are confused and don’t know how to navigate all of this. Tell them about the bad that exists in the world, but also tell them about the power of compassion. Empower them. Read them From Far Away by Robert Munsch and Saoussan Askar, which tells the story of a young refugee in her own words. When you are reaching out to your neighbours, bring your kids with you. Talk to them about what people are doing to fight these injustices and why it is so important. It is essential that they know their fears are heard, and that their voices matter.
To anyone who may be reading this who is frightened, or disheartened, or struggling under this weight: We are here for you. You are wanted and welcomed by millions of people, and these voices of hate do not speak for us. We love you, we want you here, and we will keep shouting until love is all you can hear.